Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients?

Recently, on a private (albeit large) online forum, the question came up about whether public welfare recipients should be required to take a drug test in order to get benefits. The question was terse and vague, and didn’t specify any distinction between getting and keeping benefits, frequency of testing, testing procedures, or what drugs would be covered. Nonetheless, I supported the idea in principle, knowing that practical details would have to be hammered out. I would go under the assumptions that

  1. The “drugs” are Federally illegal: Pot, heroin, cocaine, meth, PCP, ecstasy, etc., and not prescription drugs (the latter being too complex and case dependent)
  2. Exemptions for legitimate medical use (e.g., marijuana where allowed, or cocaine after nose surgeries where it is used) are permitted via advanced doctor’s certification
  3. Re-testing is infrequent, but also random and unscheduled — much like jury duty, except to avoid cheating
  4. Drug and/or alcohol related criminal convictions count the same as a bad drug test
  5. Savings in welfare benefits not disseminated to the dope smokers, meth abusers and crackheads are put back into the testing to help offset overhead — not shunted into the fiscal netherworld of the general Treasury fund.

Such drugs are illegal for a good reason. They’re addictive, costly to health, relationships and the economy (siphoning money from legitimate saving and spending), and to all of us in the form of law enforcement, public hospital expenses and various health and auto insurance costs for drug related crashes and crimes. The need to battle this scourge on multiple fronts (yes, including rehab) should be self-evident, and requires no justification.

Public assistance? Unlike most readers of this here BLOG, I’ve been on welfare. On several occasions while growing up, my folks were (extremely reluctant) food stamp and unemployment benefit recipients; and when not, we barely were above the line. Because my dad was ill-educated and my mom nearly blind, I helped her with our very small and difficult budget — from an early age (about eight). Roaches would scurry onto our arms, rats scratching in the walls, as we balanced the ledger sheets by pen and paper, sometimes on 100 degree summer days with no air conditioning. Nobody had better try to lecture me about poverty, because first hand experience and credibility on the issue are squarely on my side.

In the inner city, I also saw countless peers and their parents and other “adults” in their households choose (yes, choose) to screw up their lives with drugs and alcohol. Many of them flipped food stamps, AFDC, SSI disability, unemployment, and virtually any other form of welfare directly into their addictions. Yes, it happens, it’s real, and it’s deep and pervasive if you bother to look hard enough or if you’ve seen it already.

I know what it’s like to be living off public dole. It was shameful, embarrassing, and unpleasant; and it damn well should be! Sometimes it’s necessary, and the system does exist to help those who legitimately have fallen on hard times and need a hand back up. I believe in helping the truly burdened, and support that much…but public welfare shouldn’t be either easy or habitual. There should be time limits and abuse checks. To me, drug testing can and should be one of them.

If you’re drug-free, then what’s the problem? I would piss in a bottle if I had to for such a purpose. No worries: Never took illegal drugs, never will! I’m not all that special either, just another pile of protoplasm arranged in human form; so if I can live an entire life drug-free, anyone can. No excuses. I don’t want my tax dollars going to fund the drug habits of addicts and impulsive weaklings who lack self control. The idea of even the most microscopic proportion of my paycheck going up someone’s nose in the form of white powder is absolutely reprehensible.

A bad test? Sure, those happen, but extraordinary rarely with modern methods. A simple 1-time appeals/independent retest process can be accommodated.

Collective cost? Far, far less than Obamanomics, that’s for sure! Let’s get rid of some of the huge mounds of waste and pork elsewhere to subsidize it (in addition to savings reaped by the program). Yes, there will be individual falls through the cracks; it’s sad, and probably unavoidable. There is no such thing as a perfect system, especially in government, which is notoriously wasteful by nature. This would have to be monitored and observed extremely closely from within and without the entities administering it, including at state level. However, every single possible loophole or exception, pragmatically speaking, cannot be accommodated. Rarities will have to be just collateral damage in the never ending struggle against abuse of both drugs and of the welfare privilege, and can be brought up for review on a case by case basis.

Unfortunately, this whole idea is highly unlikely to take root under the current executive and legislative ideology, for which promoting, discovering, coddling and inventing “victims”, while belittling and minimizing the importance of self-reliance and responsibility, is a high art form, a gleaming golden idol at the leftist altar of worship.


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